German newspaper giant denies reports of replacing editors with AI

Disclaimer: This article has been updated to reflect a comment from a Bild Group spokesperson regarding the reason for the job cuts and where it sees AI’s role in the company.

German tabloid company Bild has denied reports it is laying off parts of its editorial team and replacing staffers with artificial intelligence and “automated processes.” 

The Guardian and other media outlets reported on June 21 that Bild’s parent publishing firm, Axel Springer SE, was planning to replace a range of editorial jobs with AI, citing an internal email.

Screenshot of one of the headlines. Source: Sydney Morning Herald

However, Bild Group’s director of communications, Christian Senft, told Cointelegraph that the “reports are false” and that “with our current measures, we have no intention of replacing journalism with AI.”

Instead, Senft said the announcement was regarding a restructuring program for regional newspaper editions, which involves reducing from 18 regional editions to 12 by the end of the year, and the closing of 10 out of 15 regional offices, with many functions moving centrally to Berlin.

“Therefore, these tasks such as secretariats and photo production are no longer necessary in the regions,” he said, reiterating that the associated job reductions have nothing to do with AI. 

Senft confirmed that the moves will affect employees in the “low three-digit number.” He also clarified that the announcement states that the company will “increasingly use AI to support journalistic work.”

“To this end, we are approaching the topic with an open mind and currently have many initiatives with which we are exploring areas of application for AI for our journalistic brands, both in the production processes of the editorial offices and in relation to the reader experience,” he added.

“The use of AI creates more time and space for journalistic creativity for editors and reporters. Wherever AI supports, a journalist always has to check and double-check the result at Axel Springer.”

The daily tabloid was founded in June 1952. In the 1980s, Bild reportedly sold more than five million copies per day. By 2010, Bild’s circulation had fallen to 3.55 million, according to Mondo Times. As of 2022, the print newspaper only had a circulation of just over 1 million, according to Media Impact.

Related: AI is coming for your job: What industries will be affected?

The rapid development of AI has nevertheless sparked concerns over job losses in the future.

In May, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told Bloomberg that 7,800 jobs at the firm could be replaced by AI and automation over the next five years, representing approximately 30% of its workforce.

In a June 14 report, management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. predicted that generative AI may be able to fully automate as much as 50% of all work activity conducted in workplaces today, including tasks related to decision-making, management, and interfacing with stakeholders.

AI Eye: Is AI a nuke-level threat? Why AI fields all advance at once, dumb pic puns

Update (June 21, 6:39 am UTC): This article has been updated to include information given by a Bild Group spokesperson.

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Written by Felix Ng on 2023-06-22 22:53:49.

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